Progress on the Search for a New Dean

Elizabeth Reed, Senior Associate Dean, DUE

Over the past few months I had the interesting experience of serving on the search committee for the next Dean for Undergraduate Education. As we await news of who will be the next Dean, I want to update you on where we are in the process and what it entailed.

The search was launched this February when Chancellor Eric Grimson asked that, by early May, we provide him with a list of candidates and a high level perspective on opportunities and challenges facing DUE over the next few years. Graham Walker, Professor of Biology and DUE Search veteran was appointed to lead the process.  Graham also chaired the DUE search that led to Bob Redwine in 2000 and was on the 2005 committee that led to Daniel Hastings’ appointment. Having served on the 2005 committee, I recalled Graham’s steady hand, energy and personal warmth, especially evident when he filled in several times for that committee’s Chair, Eric Grimson, and his knowledge and appreciation of DUE.  I was very pleased that he agreed to chair the current search.

2013 Search Committee members were primarily faculty from the five schools plus some students. They proved to be wonderful colleagues for this task, who made outstanding efforts. It was clear from the start that Graham wanted to conduct the highest quality search and to do so as expeditiously as possible.  The Search Committee membership:

  • Graham Walker, Chair,  Professor of Biology
  • Steve Graves, Prof. of Mgmt. Science, MechE and Engineering Systems
  • Peko Hosoi, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
  • John Ochsendorf, Associate Professor of Architecture
  • Christine Ortiz, Dean for Graduate Education, Prof. of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Elizabeth Reed, Senior Associate Dean, DUE
  • Julie Soriero, Associate Professor, Dept. Head of DAPER
  • Gigliola Staffilani, Professor of Mathematics
  • Collin Stultz, Associate Professor in EECS
  • Kai von Fintel, Associate Dean of SHASS
  • Chris Smith, Graduate Student in DUSP
  • Grace Young '14, Mechanical Engineering
  • Anu Sinha '13, EECS
  • Donna Kaufmann, Staff to the Committee, Office of the Chancellor

All in the MIT community were invited to submit confidential comments, suggestions, and questions to due-search@mit.edu, as well as recommendations for candidates and general qualities viewed as essential in the next DUE.  When the Search Committee first met in early February, Dan Hastings shared his perspective on DUE, both the job and the organization. This helped broaden and deepen the committee’s understanding of what the Dean for Undergraduate Education should do and be in order to lead in critical areas for which DUE is responsible.

Our committee also had the opportunity to hear from all the DUE office heads, the Chancellor and student groups, including the OME Student Advisory Council, Graduate Student Council and undergraduates who attended an open forum convened by student search committee members.  By the end of our second meeting, Graham commented that we had far more background than he had seen in either of the previous two searches.

To identify issues the next DUE would face and also to get suggestions for candidates, we interviewed more than 70 individuals from all over MIT in record time. As indicated above, we also solicited input from both undergraduate and graduate students.  Key issues for the next DUE, which emerged from this information-gathering, included:

  • Diversity and the role of race in admissions
  • Leading the effort to redefine the vision, mission and value statement for residential education at MIT
  • Crafting an effective relationship with the Office of Digital Learning and addressing educational policy issues related to MITx
  • Managing a large enterprise
  • Improving the freshman year
  • Supporting “the whole student” (academic, personal, social) and ensuring all students can thrive at MIT
  • Addressing academic outcome disparity between URM and non-URM students
  • Playing a leadership role in developing policies and approaches related to financial aid, tuition cost, accountability and other national issues in education
  • Fundraising as part of the next campaign

Collectively we went deep into the MIT community to gather perspective, identify potential candidates, discern whether they were willing to consider the job and narrow the field to the distinguished and accomplished group who were interviewed. Over a week ago, the Chancellor received our compiled input and list of recommended candidates. I am confident that each has the potential to be an outstanding Dean for Undergraduate Education, like their predecessor. Each would bring a different mix of strengths, experiences and enthusiasm to the job. They have all demonstrated strong commitment to undergraduate education, thought deeply about it, been involved in significant ways and conveyed excitement about the educational issues on the horizon.

At this point, the work of the committee is complete.  While I anticipate a decision by the end of the semester, it is now in the hands of the Chancellor to select and announce the new dean.